José Pizarro: “I can't wait to have a pint of beer with the locals”

By Stefan Chomka

- Last updated on GMT

Chef José Pizarro interview The Swan pub

Related tags: Chefs, Pub, Restaurant

The Spanish chef and restaurateur has taken on Claude Bosi’s former pub The Swan Inn in Esher and will reopen it as José Pizarro The Swan in March

A pub’s a bit different from a Spanish restaurant...

I’ve always wanted to have a local pub because they have so much community. Bringing everyone together is what I love to do and its very similar to what we do in Spain with our bars - everyone knows each other and has a good time.

What gave you the idea to take on The Swan?

I’d been looking for a pub for two years, and then I heard that Claude Bosi was looking to move on and I just said ‘yes’ to taking it on. It’s in a lovely part of the world - the place is beautiful and it’s so close to London. I also don’t have to spend a lot of money on it, everything there is ready for me apart from a few minor changes. It ticked all the boxes. I’m not taking on something that wasn’t working. I want to keep some of the same staff and customers. I cannot wait to have a pint of beer with the locals.

Will you be cooking there?

Yes, of course! This is a place for me to spend the weekends and to be present, and to feel that community in the same way I do in Bermondsey. I’m not going to be there every single day, but I’m also not going to put my name above the door and not be there. I’m committed to cook there and to bring a Spanish flavour to my pub.

What kind of things will you serve?

Simple Spanish food that works well in a pub. There will be plates of jamon and croquettes and I’ll serve my Spanish scotch egg. We’ll also play around with a lot of rice dishes and do stews and Sunday roasts, such as a roast suckling pig and whole shoulder of lamb. In the summer we’ll cook large paellas outside in the garden. We’ll have an outside grill and fryer where we can cook big dishes that will bring people together. There’s a market for something like that. Spanish food is so easy to make in a pub, it’s done in small Spanish bars across the country. You can come and have a pint and nothing to eat at all or spend the whole day. Spanish food works well in this kind of setting.

What else do you have planned this year?

I’m celebrating 20 years in London and my 25th year as a chef. I have so many projects this years. I’m launching my next book, Andalusia: Recipes from Seville and beyond in May and also my own sherry and cava. I’m also working with glass company Moser in the Czech Republic on a range of glassware. It’s going to be a busy year for me.

Has much changed in your 20 years in London?

The transformation that has happened has been amazing, in so many ways. Twenty years ago people knew nothing about smoked paprika or jamon Iberico; it was not easy to get people to pay £20 for a plate of jamon, everybody just wanted Parma ham. I was going from event to event giving it away for free, but [now] they are prepared to pay for it. People called me crazy the first time I put Ibercio pressa raw or medium rare on the menu, and now they sell it in Waitrose. Today, people understand Spanish culture and its food and ingredients - it’s fashionable and everyone is coming from Spain to open in London. It’s a dream come true.

José Pizarro The Swan will open in March.

2 Hare Ln, Claygate, Esher

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